Sunday, May 14, 2017

Review: LG Style Watch

My journey, years ago, from dumb-phone to smart-phone was a smooth one. I transitioned from my Sidekick device to the famed G1 (the very first Android phone), and was more than willing to overlook Android 1.0's rough edges.

Not all new smart phone owners found this switch so effortless. When some die-hard flip phone users are forced to embrace a smart-phone, the results can be ugly. In many respects, this is exactly what I went through when I transitioned from my Pebble Classic to a shiny new LG Style smart watch.

The first 24 hours with the LG were downright painful. Like that dumb phone user, I pined for my basic, yet functional UI and apps that my Pebble Classic delivered. My LG had plenty of sexy apps, but none seemed to do what I needed them to.

And what's up with this idea of managing apps via Google Play *on the watch* itself? Why would I opt to search for and install apps on a tiny UI, when the Pebble Classic method using the phone was so much simpler.

And don't even get me started on battery life. By noon of the first day, the LG Style's battery was basically dead. What good is a watch that can't make it through a day of use?

Sure, the LG had some neat tricks, like the 'Remote Shutter' app; but those were all just gimmicks. My flip-phone esque Pebble got the job done, and did so with no battery wasting flare.

So yeah, it was a rough 24 hours.

By day two, however, I'd officially decided to give the LG a chance. It would mean learning a totally new user experience, with unfamiliar swipes and presses, but I was in.

As the week went on, I found myself enjoying the watch more and more. The physical 'crown' protruding from the right side turned out to be surprisingly usable. And best of all, AutoWear, which adds Tasker integration to the watch, was quite functional.

I still got tripped over the nuances of the UI, but I was starting to see how Android Wear was going to ultimately make for a far superior watch experience than my beloved Pebble.

After a week of being an LG Style watch user, here's my take on the device.

Pros:

  • Android Wear 2, while initially confusing, does show quite a bit of promise.
  • The watch is compact and doesn't feel like I'm lugging around some clunky piece of technology.
  • It's got AutoWear, Tasker support. Whoo!
  • With a bit of searching, I've been able to find equivalent apps that I ran on my Pebble
  • With the Pebble I appreciated that I could spool any information I wanted to my wrist, but this information was essentially textual. LG Style lets me kick this up a notch by sending photos and other visual content to my watch. For example, I was trivially able to create an AndroidWear action that snapped a photo and sent said photo to my watch.

Cons:

  • Battery life. I'm back to functioning like the early days of Android where I'd have to disable WiFi and turn down brightness on my device just to eek out precious moments of battery life. Even with these measures, I've found that I still need to recharge the device throughout the day. The devices does charge quickly, but still, this is silly and not practical.
  • I'm not at all impressed by the choice of round display. Yes, I suppose this makes the device look like an old timey watch, but who cares? I'll take extra screen real estate and functionality over what appears to me to be pure style decision.
  • The LG Style is missing a few key on board sensors, including GPS, compass and NFC. I'm not sure how critical these are. I know that I enjoyed using the Pebble's compass, as it was handy to have a compass right on my wrist. Part of me thinks that if I'm going to invest in a smart watch, I might as well get one that's more tricked out.
  • I wish I could dispense with the charging cradle. Having a smart watch that I could charge with a bare USB cord would be great for travel and other times when I want to charge on the go. I'm sure, however, that there would be a size penalty to offer this, so while I don't like the cradle I appreciate that for now, it's part of the deal.

Ultimately, the battery life is a deal breaker for me. So back to Best Buy the LG Style goes. But I'm psyched to pick up a Zen Watch 3 in its place. Hopefully now that I've gotten my feet wet with Android Wear, I can skip the 24 hours of crankiness.

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